JUNE 4, 2017
“LONELY LITTLE TOWN” (WRITER: SISTER KATHLEEN MELIA)
RELEASED 1971 ON ON THE WAY LP
During the 1960s, the world saw a spate of albums by nuns singing folk music, usually in unison. There were enough of these records that a genre called “nunfolk” was born among collectors.
The album On the Way, recorded by Daybreak—a group of Franciscan sisters living in Chicago—appears on its surface to be in the orthodox (sic) tradition of the Medical Mission Sisters, Soeur Sourire, Medical Missionaries of Mary, the Claretians, etc.
But this album is different.
For one thing, Sister Kathleen Melia wrote a spate of strong songs, some joyful and secular, some worshipful, some downcast and introspective. I’ve heard a lot of such albums, and none of them have as many good songs as On the Way.
Second, many songs feature solely Sister Kathleen, or have spare backing vocal arrangements that vary from the normal arrangements on such albums. These songs are for me On the Way’s clearest and sharpest compositions and performances.
Third, this isn’t just an album of songs backed by a nylon-stringed guitar or two. A full band plays on nearly all the album, with professional sidemen providing skilled instrumental work and interesting arrangements.
I really am impressed with what Sister Kathleen and her cohorts created here. Today I’ll share with you one particularly sad, evocative song that approaches what some record collectors call “downer folk.” Hope you enjoy this.